April Chen ’19: Female Founder Stories (Part 3)
April Chen ’19 is a Co-Founder of Gentle. In 2017, Gentle surpassed its goal on Kickstarter, raising nearly $5,500 from 120 backers. It is now a running business, with exciting developments ahead. April is also a freelance graphic designer and was involved in last year’s Summer Venture Program.
Tell me about Gentle.
Our mission is to let compassion reach its destination. We bridge the gap between empathy and action through meaningful products. We are first starting with a series of empathy cards, with the first card line called “The Power of Giving.” Each card has a colorable cover and a unique exercise inside. We have five card themes: Peace, Perseverance, Resilience, Patience, Hope.
What inspired you to start your business?
I was always interested in how creativity can be used to enact social change, and entrepreneurship was a natural outlet for that. During my second year at Babson, I personally had a close friend who committed suicide and also saw a lot of other people on campus go through grief. I started to see a need for greater compassion, and understanding within my community. As a designer and artist, I wanted to start somewhere. So, as I observed how many of the sympathy cards that were passed around did not communicate the depth of understanding required for a connection, I began to reimagine what they could look like. In that process, I asked a friend from Wellesley College to help, and together, we developed Gentle.
Who is your role model and why?
I always look up to female entrepreneurs. Currently, I am inspired by Sarah Dubbeldam, the CEO & Editor in Chief of Darling Media. Darling brings into light conversations surrounding what it means to really be a woman in this culture. It inspires women to be strong, sweet, stylish, grounded, wistful and wise. This brand has a lot of authenticity simply because Sarah Dubbeldam is all of those attributes. She walks the talk in the way she lives, and carries herself. So, when she speaks about Darling and her vision, the voice she has is one of integrity.
What motivates you?
I really do enjoy the process of creating something beautiful and impactful, and achieving a numeric goal is like a secondary reward. Also, the people that I get to work with always inspires me. That includes my co-founder, Michelle. I love our partnership because we also keep each other accountable to focus on what matters.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received? What is the worst?
The best piece of advice I’ve received is to see the whole startup experience as a learning journey. I shouldn’t be overly concerned about the outcomes or results, and instead value the present moment and opportunities in front of me.
The worst advice is any advice that assumes entrepreneurship is a linear, one-size-fits-all path. Because it is not. Every person has their own personality, unique character traits, and set of life experiences, that mould and shape the way they build a a venture that works for them.
What has been your greatest entrepreneurial achievement?
Telling the story behind Gentle, and what it stands for. It is a vulnerable act. I pour my heart into this venture, and it takes a lot of courage for me to continuously put it out there.
What has been your greatest challenge and what lessons did you take from it?
My greatest challenge was to have confidence. As an Asian woman, I often don’t feel like I fit the stereotypes of a typical entrepreneur, nor did I ever feel comfortable calling myself one. But I believed in the potential impact that Gentle could have more than I valued my comfort zone.
What tips do you have for future female founders?
Don’t go alone; there is an entire network of people you can tap into and connect with. The Babson community, especially, understands what you’re doing. At Babson, people get how that you’re a full-time student, and a full-time entrepreneur.
The resources on campus that I would highly recommend –
eTower: The members have taught me so much, and the events we organize are consistently of high quality.
Antonette Ho (at the Blank Center): She is so supportive, and really cares about students.
Babson Speech Center: The coaches really take the time to understand you, and develop you in not only in the nuances of public speaking, but in your confidence as well.
Good Business Fridays: Some of the best conversations I’ve had at Babson have happened there.
Summer Venture Program: The connections I got from being even just a designer-in-residence there has been so helpful.
Finally, I would just say that any starting anything is not easy, but it becomes a lot more exciting when you surround yourself with people who you resonate with, and want to see you succeed.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”